Almost certainly we will see a major push this year to have Connecticut join the so-called National Popular Vote compact. Under the terms of the compact, each subscribing state would agree to cast its electoral votes for the presidential candidate receiving the largest popular vote nationally regardless of the choice of that state’s voters.
Because it allows any candidate to win without gaining a majority or even a minimum percentage of the popular vote, the compact encourages splinter parties. There is far less incentive for extremists to rest their case in primary battles when they can be real players in the general election. Moreover, a splinter party might actually elect a president if the popular vote is split among a sufficient number of candidates.
Other proposals to elect our president directly would require a runoff unless a candidate receives a minimum. Some suggest 40% of the popular vote. The National Popular Vote requires no minimum and allows no runoff. So we can imagine a fringe candidate becoming president with a small fraction of the popular vote. That is a blow to moderation and raises the specter of a president with only a narrow base and entirely outside of mainstream politics.
Further, the National Popular Vote scheme poses an enormous set of operational problems. To carry out the compact, some official in each participating state would have the awesome charge of deciding who received the most votes in the entire United States. We are not told on what basis the decision would be made. In the event of a close or disputed election, the temptation for a partisan call is painfully apparent. There then follows the question of how a call could be challenged, which may well bring a different answer from state to state. A repeat of the 2000 uncertainty can be imaged, magnified by a possible need to recount in states all around the country and accompanied by litigation leading again to the Supreme Court.
The National Popular Vote compact works against both moderation in politics and certainty in elections. It deserves to be rejected.
State Rep. John Hetherington is an assistant minority leader in the House of Representatives.